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Via de la Plata vs. Camino Frances - Several questions

#1
Hello all,

My wife and I have just confirmed our two months of vacation next spring and are trying to nail down our route and have a few final questions about via de la plata in comparison to camino frances.

As background, we are fit and have quite a bit of experience with long-distance mountain walking in Canada, Pyrennes (GR10) and the Alps. Typically we camp. We both speak Spanish.

Here are the questions:

1. What are tenting options like along the route (in towns specifically for if albergues are full).
2. What is scenery on VDLP compared to Camino Frances (Photos make CF greener and towns prettier) NOTE we are starting the camino in late march 2008.
3. A few past reports seem to indicate that we can expect 10 - 20 other pilgrims on the via de la plata. Any ideas on comparable number of people on CF? (NOTE: we aren't big fans of lots of crowds so this is a critical issue).

Any other suggestions relating to route selection would be much appreciated.

Many thanks
richard.
 

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#2
What is scenery on VDLP compared to Camino Frances (Photos make CF greener and towns prettier)
In general I would say the towns on the VdlP are better than the ones on the CF. Seville, Merida, Caceres, Salamanca are all great towns. The only one on the CF close is Leon. Zafra, Zamora and Ourense are also interesting.

In summer the CF will be greener but in spring when you are going there should be plenty of greenery on the VdlP. If you are lucky you will follow the Spring flowers North.

A few past reports seem to indicate that we can expect 10 - 20 other pilgrims on the via de la plata. Any ideas on comparable number of people on CF? (NOTE: we aren't big fans of lots of crowds so this is a critical issue).
I can't say the number of people you will see per day on the VdlP now (in 2000 & 02 it was hardly any) but I can say that whatever the number it will be a fraction of the number on the CF.


Neither route is mountainous and there are very many flat days on both, probably more on the VdlP.
 

Debinq

Active Member
#3
Hi Richard

Yes, the VdlP has many 'flat' (i.e. not hilly) days - but certainly that ain't the case on the last 250km (approx) - from Sanabria onwards - also it'll certainly be a fraction in terms of busy-ness (other pelegrinos) compared to CF - I was on the VdlP (from Sanabria onwards) last year in Oct : a few nights I was alone in the refugio - other nights no more than 6 others (at Ourense) - but mostly 2 to 3 others ...... and errrr ummmm..... the rain in Spain doesn't mainly fall in the plain...... it buckets down in Galicia! (in Oct it seems!)

buen camino

Peter
 
#4
In January this year I only met one other pilgrim in 21 days walking from Seville. Albergues were available as was sufficient other accomodation. Then in Spring it was really busy when eventually I encountered maybe 8 other pilgrims at the dreadful (and to be avoided imho) albergue in Cubo del Vino. This had fallen to only 4 others by the time we reached Santa Croya de Tera. Finishing the final leg in early September there were again empty albergues and at most 4 - 6 other pilgrims on the route.

In terms of ascents the VdlP has some challenges - at the start there is the "sting in the tail" part of the stage climbing over the ridge to Almaden de la Plata to be followed by the long relentless up hill walk into Monasterio. But these are as nought compared for example to the climb from Laza to Villar de Barrio then post Ourense where the route rises more than 200 m in 1 km. But all good with often spectacular views and a real sense of achievement.
 
#5
Thanks for the quick replies to our questions. This information really helps make this decision a lot easier. It looks more likely that VDLP is the route for us.

If anybody else has information, please feel free to keep this thread going.
 

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#6
Spring on the Via de la Plata is a great choice. The guide by Alison Raju describes one of the etapas as "walking on the roof of the world" another as having "wild flowers in Spring as far as the eye can see" - you are in for a treat !

Buen Camino

John
 
#7
In my opinion you will have no accomodation problems in Camino Frances. May be "any" problem when you arrive in Galicia, in late april.

But if you don't like crowds (as I do) may be you will prefer the VDLP.

If you decide the Camino Frances be carefull with snow in St. Jean - Roncesvalles.

Buen Camino, enjoy the best season in year to walk.

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain.
 

omar504

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016,2017,2018
#8
I walked the vdlp, my first camino, last may/june. This year I walked from le puy to santiago. If you don't like crowds, which I don't, then avoid the CF-I found it dreadfully crowded.In Castille/Leon at the entrance to one town a survey was being taken and one heading was what you don't like and top of the list was 'crowds' so they are obviously aware of it.I'm also not one of those people who thinks that being woken up at 5am by fools walking in the dark is not 'fun'. The vdlp was great, longer, not crowded,varied scenerey.The CF is very well organised with regard to amenieties/shops/internet-unlike the vdlp. I would never do the cf again but next year will walk from Granada.
 

Deborah

Active Member
#9
Today I received a wonderful guide book on the VDLP by Cicerone. A small, easy to pack size, with a lot of great photos and information.
 
#10
I'm sorry, in my last message I had a mistake. When I wrote:

But if you don't like crowds (as I do) may be you will prefer the VDLP.

I would have written:

But if you don't like crowds (as I don`t) may be you will prefer the VDLP.

Sometimes it's not so easy for me to write in a foreign language!

Buen Camino,

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain.
 

omar504

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016,2017,2018
#11
I'm a bit perplexed; people seem to want to avoid crowds but are determined to go on the CF-why?
If you don't like crowds don't go on the CF. My first camino was the VDLP my second from Le Puy to SDC-the Spanish section was horendous.It's quite simple-if you think that competing for a bed by midday, or being woken up by idiots at 5am is 'fun' then go on the CF. How much more infomation do you need?
 
#12
It's true. Here is Spain there's a lot of pilgrims that prefer another alternative Caminos to CF. Possibly because the crowds.

I walked the Camino de Madrid (Madrid - Sahagun) alone. Just with a friend of mine from Coca to Medina de Rioseco.
I walked the VDLP from Zamora in winter, completely alone (just found a german pilgrim in Cea).
I walked the Camino Portugues, in winter too, since Barcelos (PT). Only the last day in Padron I found any pilgrims.

When I go to the CF usually I do it with any friends to enjoy any etapas. But I really dislike this "war" to find a litera to stay next night. I don't mind to sleep on the floor, but I dislike to see people taking buses, taxis and their own vehicles to arrive earlier than me and taking this literas.

Ten years ago it was possible to walk the CF without crowds, even is summer.

Buen Camino,

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain.
 

sillydoll

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2002 CF: 2004 from Paris: 2006 VF: 2007 CF: 2009 Aragones, Ingles, Finisterre: 2011 X 2 on CF: 2013 'Caracoles': 2014 CF and Ingles 'Caracoles":2015 Logrono-Burgos (Hospitalero San Anton): 2016 La Douay to Aosta/San Gimignano to Rome:
#13
I'm a bit perplexed; people seem to want to avoid crowds but are determined to go on the CF-why?
Omar, I think you know the answer to your question! Why do people flock to the most popular spots anywhere in the world when there are other, other less populated places to choose?
The Camino Frances is considered to be the Jacobean Route par excellence. Many of the old maps show a plethora of main and secondary routes through Europe to Spain and the Camino Frances. Only the few show the variants in northern Spain. For example, old maps in the Prado Museum in Madrid by the Escula de Estudios Medievals (Peregrinaciones a Santiago de Compostela) don’t show any route south of the Camino Frances. (Perhaps it was too dangerous in the hey-days of pilgrimage to walk through Muslim held territories.) Even the website of the Archdiocese - http://www.archicompostela.org/ - displays a map of the routes through France feeding into the Camino Frances – no maps of the other routes. The UCLA website (http://www.humnet.ucla.edu/santiago/spancmno.html) displays a similar map with only the Camino Frances.
It is the most written about route, the most traveled, the most studied, the most preserved and, therefore, the most popular. This was also the only route in Spain included in the 12th Century Codex Calixtinus.
I have walked it three times - in May/June, June/July (2004 Holy Year) and end of August/September. I have never had to compete for a bed, never been overwhelmed by crowds of pilgrims (besides a day or two from Sarria when a division of the army started walking from there in 2004). I have also walked the Via Turonensis from Paris and the complete lack of fellow pilgrims made it seem more like a GR hiking trail than a "camino". If you really want to be alone and not see any other pilgrims then go and walk the Via Francigena. But hurry - it is growing in popularity, especially amongst ex-camino pilgrims looking for new paths!
 

omar504

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016,2017,2018
#14
yes, the via Francigena is on my list. I'm not against people but I think there is a balance between meeting people on the way and having a dozen people in front and a dozen behind and the crazies competing for beds. As for the most traditional route-wouldn't that be from Le Puy which began in the 10th century?-why don't people at least start from there and walk to Santiago in stages if they don't have the time to walk it in one go?
 
#15
Hola a todos from Puente La Reina

As well as wishing everyone well I wanted to report that I am here with about 6 - 10 other pilgrims. A much larger group started in St Jean some went ahead and already a number have dropped out! It is a strange, new but very interesting experience for me to be walking with others but not that many that it isn´t possible to walk alone if that is the choice. It isn´t light until around 8am and it is v cold in the mornings so leaving at extreme (imho) hours isn´t an option. 30 mins to an hour before first light is perfectly feasible and can be very beautiful. The day of the Route Napoleon showed how treacherous it must be when the weather is very bad - as it was we had sunshine for the first part of the climb just to get everyone drenched in sweat, followed by wind, then fog, then a smattering of snow at the top and rain on the way down! Lovely! It has been sunshine all day to day. :)

For me this all just demonstrates the vast variety of experiences physical, geographic, human and spritual the different routes with their many characteristics have to offer.

Hasta la proxima

Juan
 
#16
Hi, my good friend.

But, really are you now in Puente la Reina?

As you enjoy the good wine, when you arrive to Logroño don't forget to visit La calle Laurel, the Laurel street, just at the lunch time. A "tapa" with a glass of wine. Another "tapa" with another glass of wine. Every different bar, a different kind of "tapa". Buffff ... such a interesting place ...

I'll be there on friday. But, I imagine you will be next tuesday ...

Buen Camino,

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain.
 
#17
Hi Javier - abrazos!

No I´m not in Puente la Reina - I´m now in Estella! Greetings.

Lots of Albergues are closed - Pamplona, Arre, Cirauqui so some careful planning and phoning ahead has to be done. I suspect hospitaleros are having a break after the busy season - some will just close for the winter.

I mentioned there were around 10 of us on the route to Puente la Reina spread throughout the day - but no sooner had I logged off when the all of a sudden the albergue filled up - where they came from and where they were going I have no idea.

Today was stunning weather - like a summers day - walking in shorts and t shirt, sunscreen and sun glasses -pilgrims making somberos out of hankies. Wonderful.


Javier I am stopping in Santa Domingo de la Calzada and I return to the UK on Friday. Tomorrow Los Arcos, Monday Logrono etc - catch me up and I´ll buy you a drink! :) If not I´ll be back in Enero to move forward to Santiago.

Juan
 
#18
Uffff

Now I'm not on the Camino, but in my house near Madrid. On friday I'll arrive to Logroño to return there from Estella ...

But in January ... ¿when exactly? because, I will be working as usual, but it's a good excuse for me to "visit" the Camino any weekend ... and in February I'm planning to walk "La Clásica" between Astorga and Ponferrada ... just to enjoy it, to visit my friend Tomas in Manjarin, to ... ¿who knows?

Buen Camino,

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain.
 

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